Future directions in genetic counseling: practical and ethical considerations

Kennedy Inst Ethics J. 1998 Jun;8(2):145-60. doi: 10.1353/ken.1998.0009.


The accelerated discovery of gene mutations that lead to increased risk of disease has led to the rapid development of predictive genetic tests. These tests improve the accuracy of assigning risk, but at a time when intervention or prevention strategies are largely unproved. In coming years, however, data will become increasingly available to guide treatment of genetic diseases. Eventually genetic testing will be performed for common diseases as well as for rare genetic conditions. This will challenge genetic counseling practice. The ethical principles that now guide this practice take into account the personal nature of test decision making, the need to respect individual self-determination, and the importance of client confidentiality. Certain of these principles may have to be modified as genetic testing becomes more widespread in order to meet the changing needs of clients and society. This paper offers recommendations to ensure that genetic counselors will take a leading role in the future delivery of ethical genetic services.

MeSH terms

  • Communication
  • Confidentiality
  • Counseling
  • Decision Making
  • Disclosure
  • Education
  • Empirical Research
  • Eugenics
  • Family
  • Freedom
  • Genetic Counseling*
  • Genetic Services
  • Genetic Testing
  • Health Personnel*
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening
  • Moral Obligations
  • Patients
  • Personal Autonomy
  • Professional Competence
  • Professional Role*
  • Professional-Patient Relations
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Reproduction
  • Reproductive Techniques, Assisted
  • Research
  • Social Change*
  • Social Responsibility
  • Social Values
  • Truth Disclosure